The opposite of distracted…

Word count: 295 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers. Today I find an interesting piece on the problem of  too much attention.

I usually work with writers who are distracted beyond words. Yes, that was a pun. They are so distracted they can no longer write. They may check their email every seven minutes. Or perhaps the siren call of Facebook undoes them. Or maybe it’s the lure of all those fantastic…cat videos on Youtube. Whatever the distraction, they fall prey to it and they are unable to write.

I meet with so many people like this it had never occurred to me to consider the inverse problem: too much focus on one thing. Well, it hadn’t occurred to me until I read a fascinating New York Times piece by novelist Benjamin Nugent on the “upside” of distraction.

He suffered from what he describes as, “a pathologically intense focus on one thing.” The technical name for that is monomania and he experienced it while he was writing a book. His amusing and instructive essay is well worth reading even if your own problem is closer to “infinite distraction.”

As we learned when we read Goldilocks, there is porridge that is too hot, too cold and just right. There are also beds that are too soft, too hard and just right. Finally there is attention that is too much, too little and just right. We need to do a better job of aiming for the “happy middle” where success surely lies.

Read Benjamin Nugent’s essay to learn the horror facing those who have too much attention.

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